Memories of my Mother’s chicken cacciatore sizzling in the electric skillet bring me back to my childhood and lazy fall weekends enjoying this incredibly tasty comfort food.
Cacciatore (pronounced catch-ih-torrr (roll those r’s)-ay), by the way, means “hunter” in Italian, so you can be sure this is a “stick to your ribs” food.
After discussing with Mom what she put in her cacciatore, I found Giada’s recipe, which matched Mom’s enough to try it. (Why didn’t I just use Mom’s? Because Mom, like all our Mom’s recipes, was “put a little of this, a little of that,” and well, I need measurements).
Giada’s recipe is great; I made it as is just once. But with a few changes, including using only skinless chicken thighs, using red wine, and just a pinch of red pepper flakes, the recipe is richer and spicier, as a proper Southern Italian dish should be, and tastes more like Mom’s. It’s also now ready to share with you.
About that chicken skin…as a kid, there was something awesome about eating boiled, rubbery skin drenched in tomato sauce. And oddly, most recipes for cacciatore still call for skin-on. But my Crestor helped arteries and more mature palate said the skin must go.
So here we go. It’s easy enough, and pretty quick for a stew-like meal:
Gather your ingredients. You will see here I have a small red onion and half a yellow onion. It’s simply what I had in the pantry, use whatever color onion you want. Canned tomato brands are a personal choice, but I like and highly recommend Hunt’s and Tuttorosso. Don’t ask me about wine. I know nothing about it. I grab whatever is on sale, but most important, it has to be something you would drink. If you won’t drink it, why would you cook with it? And fresh herbs whenever you can, thank you!
Remove the skin from the chicken. I separate the skin from the meat with my fingers and then cut the skin off with poultry scissors.
Season with salt and pepper and then dredge in flour. You should always pat off excess flour with your hands, even though it makes your hands messy.
You will want to use a pot large enough to hold all the chicken and vegetables. I prefer a Dutch oven or even a pasta pot, but if you have a skillet large enough and deep enough, that works too.
Get the oil smoking hot and brown the chicken on both sides until nice and golden. Remove the chicken from the pot and now get your veggies going. You can see the size I chopped the veggies into here.
Ok, so here’s the thing…browning the chicken will happen over medium-high heat, but you need to turn the heat down to medium before you add your veggies or that delicious brown fond you see up there will burn and that’s sad. Stir the veggies and as they cook, they will release moisture allowing you to scrape, scrape, scrape up the brown bits. IF that brown goodness starts to darken, it’s time to add the liquid, because this is a stew and the veggies have plenty of time to soften.
When you have added all the ingredients and it’s time to return the chicken to the pot, make sure you either turn the chicken pieces to coat in the sauce, or you submerge the chicken into the liquid.
Once the chicken is fully cooked, here is a tip from Giada’s recipe that I really like: She removes the chicken and then boils the sauce to thicken. This is a personal preference, though. Your sauce might be perfect at the end of the cooking time, in which case you can skip this step.
And pretty much, that’s it!
Now, my Mom’s cacciatore was always, ALWAYS, served with mashed potatoes. I opened a Facebook discussion about what one serves with cacciatore and mashed potatoes was the choice, hands down. Other choices are polenta or a side dish of pasta. ENJOY!
- 8 chicken thighs, bone-in, remove skin
- Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
- ½ cup flour
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 red bell peppers, seeded & chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¾ cup red wine
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 ½ tsp dried)
- ⅛ teaspoon (a pinch) of red pepper flakes, if desired
- Fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Use a baking sheet for preparation. Remove skin from chicken thighs and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in flour, patting to remove excess.
- Preheat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for several minutes. Add olive oil and heat until smoking.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pot and brown until golden on each side, about 15 minutes. Cook in batches if all the chicken doesn’t fit in the pot using more oil if necessary. Remove chicken to the baking sheet.
- Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onion, bell peppers and garlic. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and stir, scraping up the browned bits in the pot, until vegetables are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the wine, continuing to scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, and cook until thickened, 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, tomatoes in their juice, capers, oregano and the red pepper flakes if you are using. Stir.
- Add the chicken pieces back to the pot making sure to coat each piece in the sauce.
- Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking chicken 20 to 30 minutes.
- Transfer the fully cooked chicken to a serving platter. For a thicker sauce, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil the sauce to thicken for 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with the fresh basil.
Modified from Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network